The Marchioness de Moya rose. Don Enrique kissed her hand, and Jayme de Marchena kissed it and thanked her. “I would help if I could!” she said. “But in Spain to-day it is deadly dangerous to talk or write as though there were freedom!”
She passed from the gallery, Don Enrique and I following. We came upon a landing with a great stair before us. Quick as had been her maidens, they were not quick enough. Many folk were coming up the broad steps. Dona Beatrix glanced, then opened a door giving into a great room, apparently empty. She pointed to an opposite door. “The little stair! Go that way!” Don Enrique nodded comprehension. We were in the room; the door closed.
At first it seemed an empty great chamber. Then from behind a square of stretched cloth came a man’s head, followed by the figure pertaining to it. The full man was clad after a rich fancy and he held in his hand a brush and looked at us at first dreamily and then with keenness.
He knew me, differently arrayed though I was, and looked from me to Don Enrique. “Master Manuel Rodriguez,” said the latter, “I would stop for good talk and to admire the Queen’s likeness, but duty calls me out of palace! Adios!” He made toward the door across from that by which we had entered. The painter spoke after us. “That door is bolted, Don Enrique, on the other side. I do not know why! It is not usually so.”
Don Enrique, turning, hurried to the first door and very slightly opened it. A humming entered the large, quiet room. He closed the door. “The Queen is coming up the great stair. The Archbishop of Granada is with her and a whole train beside!” He spoke to the painter. “I have no audience, and for reasons would not choose this moment as one in which to encounter the least disfavor! I will stay here before your picture and admire until landing and stairways are bare.”
“If to be invisible is your desire,” answered Manuel Rodriguez, “you have walked into trouble! The Queen is coming here.”
Don Enrique exclaimed. Juan Lepe turned eyes to the painter. The blue eyes met mine—there rose the rushy pool, there dozed the broken boat. Manuel Rodriguez spoke in his voice that was at once cool and fine and dry and warm. “It is best to dare thoroughly! Perhaps I may help you—as thus! Wishing to speak with Don Enrique of an altar painting for the Church of Saint Dominic, I asked him here and he came. We talked, and he will give the picture. Then, hearing the Queen’s approach, he would instantly have been gone, but alack, the small door is barred! —As for fisherman yonder, few look at squire when knight is in presence!”
No time to debate his offer, which indeed was both wise and kind! Chamberlains flung open the door. In came the Queen, with her the Princess Juana and several of her ladies. Beside her walked Fernando de Talavera, Her Highness’s confessor, yesterday Bishop of Avila but now Archbishop of Granada. Behind him moved two lesser ecclesiastics, and with these Don Alonzo de Quintanella, Comptroller-General of Castile. Others followed, nobles and cavaliers, two soberly clad men who looked like secretaries, a Franciscan friar, three or four pages. The room was large and had a table covered with a rich cloth, two great chairs and a few lesser ones.